It is hard to imagine that one of the dominant characteristics of the early Christian church was its unity. As we look around, we see a denomination on every corner. Beliefs are diverse, and worship services are tailored to meet personal preferences. Everyone can find a church to suit their fancy. Sermons are molded more by culture than the word of God. Divisions are inevitable, in stark contrast to the wishes of our Lord.
He would soon suffer a brutal death, but Jesus first prayed with His disciples. He prayed for us (John 17:20-21). There is no question that such a moment would reveal the depths of His heart, and His plea was that we would all be one. Convincing the world to believe in Him has been entrusted into our hands, and our relationships with each other would be among our most powerful arguments. We must not let Him down.
He gave His life to unite us (Ephesians 2:14-16). All of the barriers that split people apart have been nailed to the cross. Every Christian is part of the one body of believers who have been reconciled to God. Jesus promised that there would be one flock with one shepherd (John 10:16). Maybe, the reason there is division is because some sheep have ceased to follow the Good Shepherd. They are still sheep. They just aren’t His sheep anymore. They have relinquished their place in His flock.
We must get to work to preserve the unity that the Spirit established (Ephesians 4:1-3). It will never come easily. Self gets in the way. It calls for humility, gentleness, patience and tolerance which all butt heads with our fleshly side. Check the list of the unique qualities of the Lord’s people (Eph. 4:4-6), and we find the body at the very top. It is not a matter of secondary importance. There is no “attend the church of your choice.” There is only one.
The early church presents a beautiful picture of the Lord’s intentions for His people. It was no ordinary time as anticipated stays in Jerusalem were extended, and needs began to grow. Christians stepped up in a significant way to help (Acts 2:44-45). They dug deep into their resources, and sacrificed to meet those pressing needs. They even sold property and houses. Their unity and concern for one another attracted the attention of their neighbors (Acts 2:47).
The church finds itself in decline. In a broader sense, the worldwide Christian community is divided into hundreds of subgroups. Their very existence flies in the face of the biblical teaching about unity (Ephesians 4:4-6). The world is skeptical, and that skepticism is fed by the divisions. We must be diligent at working on oneness. The Lord died for it. Our neighbors are listening and watching. Do we give them reason to believe?